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Longquan celadon (Chinese: 龍泉青瓷) is a type of green-glazed Chinese ceramics, known in the West as celadon. It was produced in kilns that were located, for the most part, in the Lishui prefecture of southern China's Zhejiang Province. The Longquan celadon production area was one of the largest historical ceramic producing areas in China; over 200 kiln sites have been discovered, including those outside Lishui prefecture. In recognition of this diversity "Longquan-type" or "southern celadon" may be preferred as a term.. There were also a large number of kilns in northern China, producing Northern Celadon wares; these are similar to Longquan celadons in many respects, but there are some significant differences.
Celadon production had a long history at Longquan and related sites, but large scale production did not begin until the Northern Song (960–1127) period. After 1127, the Northern Song capital was relocated to Hangzhou; most likely this was a factor in the expansion of production and increase in quality of Longquan celadon. These were among the finest of a range of celadon wares produced in China, and led stylistic and technical developments.
The celadons were produced in a range of colours, centred on olive-green, but extending to greenish-blues. These colours come from the glaze; the body is sometimes left partly unglazed for decorative purposes. The wares are hardly ever painted; decoration comes from the shape and carved or incised designs in the body. Longquan celadons were an important part of China's export economy for over five hundred years, and influenced pottery making in other countries, especially Korea and Japan.
In traditional Western terms, celadons are strictly counted as stoneware, since the fired clay body is neither white nor translucent. In the traditional Chinese classification, which divides pottery into low-fired earthenware and high-fired porcelain, celadon are classified as porcelain. Compromise terms such as "porcellanous stoneware" may be used to describe the pieces and some Western writers believe celadons should be "regarded as porcelains".
The body of Longquan celadons, as seen in fragments under the glaze, varies from "a heavy, compact grey stoneware to an almost white porcellaneous material." If fired at the surface, it turns to a typical terracotta reddish brown; this can be seen at the unglazed foot of many piece, where relief decoration has beenn left unglazed. This distinguishes the Longquan style from Northern Celadons.[clarification needed]
The body would normally be thrown on the potter's wheel; large vases would often be added in sections and luted together. Templates or moulds might be used, including two-part moulds. Moulds could inc;lude decorative embellishments. Unglazed biscuit relief sections could be created by either sprigging the reliefs over a glazed area before firing, where the surface would be flat in the kiln, or by adding a resist of wax or grease before glazing.
Glaze colours vary from greyish to blueish greens, with some yellowish browns as well. The colour comes from iron oxide which is fired in a reducing atmosphere. The colour varies with the temperature, strength and timing of the atmosphere reduction.
Longquan celadons was fired in long dragon kilns, which are brick tunnels rising up a slope; the best results came from the pots in the uppermost areas because these heated up more slowly and evenly. Saggars were always used. The long kilns might have been able to fire as many as 25,000 pieces at a time. The firing temperature was probably between 1,180°C and 1,280°C, with the range over 1,250°C giving the best green colours. In some cases, it appears that layers of glaze and multiple firings were used to achieve a deeper glaze effect.
The glaze is made opaque by the presence of plant ash and tiny bubbles of gas, which give a lustrous effect; with whiter clays, the pieces may be translucent. The pronounced reddish colour of unglazed areas comes from the end of the firing; as the heated clay comes in contact with fresh air let into the kiln, the iron turns into ferrous oxide. Many pieces have a crackle in the glaze, but much less than in the closely related Guan ware. A technique used before the 15th century was to add spots or splashes of a mixture rich in iron oxide with an appearance of randomness; these fired a dark brown.
Both Chinese and Japanese tradition have developed a range of terms to describe the glaze colours and qualities; some of the Japanese terms have the advantage of being anchored to specific pieces in Japan. The term kinuta (砧青瓷), meaning "mallet" represents the most admired blue-green colour from the Song period, and is often used in English. Tenryūji, from the Yuan and Ming periods, has a "a faint yellowish-green tone". The shickikan type is from the middle Ming, after the glaze became more transparent. For the Chinese, the similarity of the colour to the most prestigious material in Chinese art—jade— was an important factor in their appeal.
Most shapes are simple but very elegant. The size and decoration of larger fine pieces increases from the Yuan onwards, with some very large vases and lidded wine jars being made by the 14th century. The "mallet" vase was a special favourite at Longquan, often with handles formed as animals or dragons. Funerary vases, made in pairs, also often feature charmingly stylized animals, usually tigers and dragons. These were used in southern Chinese custom to store provisions for the afterlife. Another distinct Longquan style was a dish with two or more fishes swimming in the centre, either in biscuit or glazed; these sometimes have holes drilled for metal handles, as mentioned in a late 14th-century source.  In general, Longquan decoration tends to project from the body, and the effects that Northern Celadon gets from glaze over shallow carving into the body are less common. Earlier pieces are content with subtle glaze effects, often accentuated by the glaze thinning over small ridges or ribs, while later pieces have more elaborate floral scrolls or animals in relief. Religious figurines and shrines were rare before the Yuan, and never a large part of production; as in Qingbai, these sometimes mix biscuit, for the flesh or figure, with a glazed background.
Unlike the celadons produced under the Northern Song, Longquan wares do not seem to have been used by the imperial court. When the Guan kilns could not cope with demand, Longquan kilns were used to make the "official" Guan ware.. An important market seems to have been the scholar-gentleman class. Besides ordinary uses, celadons were used on altars and sometimes in burials. Many of the shapes, especially in the early period, were based on ancient ritual ritual bronze shapes. Although these celadons lacked the complex surface decorations of the bronze originals. they were considered appropriate for religious functions. These celadon were exported in great numbers. In some South-East Asian countries, such as Japan and Korea, many of the best surviving examples are in temples.
Japan was a large-scale and enthusiastic importer of celadons. The beach at Kamakura, the capital during the height of Longquan production, had some 50,000 Longquan sherds; these are thought to have be broken pieces that were dumped at the end of voyages from China. Japan soon began to imitate Chinese celadon production techniques.
Celadons were also exported westward to the Islamic world; one of the most significant porcelain collections in the world is at the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. A few pieces reached Europe as diplomatic gifts from Islamic countries; these were sometimes given elaborate metalwork mounts that turned them into goblets. Their value was increased by the belief that a celadon would break or change colour, if poison was placed on them. Fragments have also been found along the East African coast, as far south as Kenya and Tanzania.
The kilns at Dayao(大窯), Anfu and Xikou were particularly important in the Song period. In the Northern Song period, the Dayao kiln site near Longquan city produced wares at twenty-three separate kilns. Dayao and Jincun appear to have been the largest kiln complexes of the period; these kilns produced the best wares. The Southern Song (1127–1279) marks the beginning of the greatest period of porcelain production, continuing into the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) and the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).
A key event in the rise of Longquan celadon was the flight of the Northern Song court to the south, after they lost control of the north in the disastrous Jin-Song wars of the 1120s. A new Southern Song court was established in Hangzhou, close to Longquan. The Northern Celadon kilns declined as Longquan greatly expanded production. Longquan wares were not from one of the Five Great Kilns (grouped later by Chinese connoisseurs) andthey are rarely mentioned in early writings on the subject, though careful imitations were made during the Qing dynasty.
A story repeated in many sources from the Yuan period onwards, with uncertain significance, tells of two brothers called Zhang, who are both Longquan potters. The elder brother develops a very special type of ware; later sources say it was distinguished by crackled glaze and call it Ge ware, meaning "elder brother ware". The younger brother also developed a fine style of pottery; the best quality early Longquan ware.
During the 14th century, porcelain quality declined, although production and exports continued to grow for a time. By the middle of the 14th century, Jingdezhen ware was being made as blue and white porcelain; this new ware gradually replaced Longquan celadon in many markets. Floods and war seem to have brought some kilns to an abrupt end; some excavated kilns lie deep under soil deposited in flooding.
A sunken trade vessel from 1323 was found in Sinan County off the Korean coast in 1976, whose cargo included over 9,600 celadon pieces from the Yuan period; a single religious statuette was found among the pieces. This cargo was probably bound for Japan. The find suggests that Song types[definition needed] may have still been in production later than was previously thought.
Longquan celadon production flourished during the early Ming dynasty period, when it was an official kiln operated of the court.[clarification needed] The floral decorative designs were very similar to those in contemporary Jingdezhen blue and white and also court lacquerwork; the pattern books may have supplied by court artists. Shapes included large flat dishes that were very difficult to fire. Around the mid-15th century the court ceased its orders, and the kilns continued to decline. By the late Ming period few of the kilns survived; those that did mostly produced utilitarian wares such as tiles and water pots.
In the twentieth century, native and foreign scholars have visited the kiln sites and excavated there. Among modern Chinese scholars, the main kiln sites were first systematically investigated by Chen Wanli, in 1928 and 1934; the sites had been previously excavated by speculators and art-dealers.